By: Sarity Gervais
As a travel writer, I’m often asked to leave on last minute assignments. Not a problem: The famous essentials are always ready and pre-packed to go with me at a moment’s notice.
This very moment I’m sitting by the desk of my room at the Bond Place Hotel in Toronto, Canada. I’m munching on apples, walnuts and almonds as I write this article. I brought them with me as part of the kit I never ever leave without. These things save time, trouble, and even prevent a grumbling tummy. I arrived late last night, hungry and too tired to hunt for food. A bottle of water, hot tea and the above snacks were dinner. My trip was easy and smooth. US dollars were converted to Canadian to buy train tickets and upon check in I unpacked, washed and fell into a yummy deep sleep.
So here are the most important things a traveller MUST have ready well before departure:
1. Make sure your passport is valid and ready for travel. A word of warning: guard your passport if you don’t want to spend a good part of your trip in a panic.
I have colour photocopies of my passport’s two first pages and of a government issued picture ID. A hard copy is tucked in a zippered compartment of the carry-on bag. This is for a precaution for the remote possibility of losing my passport while on a trip. There is no greater guarantee than a lost or stolen passport to make one spend at least 18-48 hours in red-tape generated agony, especially if it happens in a foreign country. Regardless, even with the photocopies, it is still a massive hassle to get a local embassy to issue a new passport. Best, don’t lose your passport.
2. Sleep on the plane so you arrive fresh and ready to be fully present.
Earplugs and an eye mask are lifesavers to block out the world. They are also great for a hotel stay. Many airlines cheap out nowadays and don’t provide pillows and blankets. Bring your own inflatable one (the ones that wrap around the back of your neck and provide a cushion for your head). Make sure to have a large pashmina or coat to cover up. Last night’s flight would have had me emerge as a frozen snowman, had I not brought my long down coat.
3. Have a Universal Adapter Plug.
If there’s one thing I’ll never understand, it’s why all the countries in the world can’t agree on a standardized electric outlet. So instead of getting frustrated, I carry a $20 All-in-One Travel Power Adapter plug, a compact little USB unit, which will fit almost any country’s outlets.
4. Plastic sealable Zip lock bags for organizing your smaller items.
OK, so we all need a little help getting organized and see thru plastic bags will do the trick. The small jars and bottles, antibacterial and cleansing wipes, electronics, (my electric toothbrush goes with me everywhere) plugs and cords, socks and underwear, receipts etc. go into a dedicated bag for easy locating. Your wet bathing suit can go into one of the spare ones, as can all the things you wish to keep separate from your clothes, like shoes and plane slippers. Makes for easy unpacking: the toiletry bag neatly goes to the bathroom, the socks in the drawer and so on.
5. Nail kit with emery board and clippers, plus a small sewing kit with a few assorted buttons.
Most decent hotels will provide a travel size tooth paste and disposable toothbrush, but if you tear a nail or lose a button on your shirt you’re often on your own. So instead of going on a hunt for these, I bring them along.
6. Always have a document holder for your passport and other important documents.
A bunch of your business cards will go into a pocket in one of these. When you are out and about you can put some more in your wallet. Business cards make you appear professional and besides, if you say: ‘Here is my card’, you’ll be taken far more seriously when requesting an upgrade or making a new contact.
7. Ear buds.
I carry 3 pairs of them, some with speakers for the iPhone, somewithout, just for listening to music or meditating myself to sleep. Even the super expensive ones keep breaking so I learnt not to splurge and have a fresh supply of drug store type ones, which I don’t mind replenishing as soon as they break.
8. Rain Poncho.
Incredibly packable and far more practical than an umbrella, which takes space weighs more and protects less of you. One with a hood is ideal.
9. Healthy snacks.
For the flight or late night tummy grumbles, having a decent sized bag of mixed nuts, hard fruits like apples and some well wrapped, pre halved lemons for your morning lemon water. In some hotels you have to travel far and wide to find a lemon, a thing I am experiencing at this very moment. The bar will provide tiny pre sliced bits, which hardly serve the purpose of squeezing amply into you morning water.
10. A Book and/or Magazine.
Your iPhone is dead and you have a long flight ahead of you. You’ve seen the movie the airline shows and you long to amuse yourself with something other than listening to the snores of the passenger beside you.
You crack open a brand new magazine, enjoy the smell of the fresh paper, savour the photography, the articles and editorials. Or get absorbed in a great book and go on an adventure without moving an inch. How very quaint and delicious.
11. An iPhone battery pack.
Your phone is essential when traveling. Enough said.
Have a wonderful trip!